Daughter of Xanadu (Hardback)
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Short Description for Daughter of Xanadu Princess Emmajin's determined to become a warrior in the army of her grandfather, the Great Khan Khubilai. The last thing she wants is the distraction of the foreigner Marco Polo, who challenges her beliefs in the gardens of Xanadu.
- Published: 11 January 2011
- Format: Hardback 336 pages
- ISBN 13: 9780385739238 ISBN 10: 0385739230
- Sales rank: 758,495
Reviews for Daughter of Xanadu
Brilliant Historical / Young Adult Fiction!
I don't know much about Mongolian history, but it's true that I don't have a liking for the Mongols after watching movies and reading storybooks depicting their barbaric acts. But now I realize it's just the way a story is portrayed that influences the reader's mind, thanks to Daughter of Xanadu. When a same story is told in two different perspectives, we will have different perceptions and feelings after reading them.
In this book, our heroine, the 16-year-old granddaughter of Kubilai Khan - Princess Emmajin has no intention of getting married and become a good wife. She sole ambition is to get enlisted in the army and fight for the Khan to gain fame and glory in order to make herself comparable to men. She wants to help contributing a part in helping the Great Khan conquer the whole world. But as she eventually befriends a Latin merchant named Marco Polo whom she is initially assigned to spy on, she learns about the countries which is far off the borders of the Mongolian empire. Marco's words about the bad effects of wars start to prick her consciousness, and she thinks about the possibility of attaining peace through an alternative solution. As time passes, Emmajin and Marco begins to develop special feelings for each other.
While being historically accurate and highly entertaining, Daughter of Xanadu is also a thought-provoking novel. It questions the act of waging a war simply because of one man's aspiration to be the supreme world ruler. You will not fail to discover the brutalities and grittiness of war, which is portrayed vividly in this novel during the Battle of Vochan. However, I must say that I really admire Marco's wit in introducing a special tactic that proved to work against the Burmese King's troops. I love the part where Emmajin, Suren and Marco helped in capturing live dragons (crocodiles) to be taken back to Khanbalik.
In the front pages of the book, you will find a map of the Mongol Empire under Kubilai Khan from 1275 - 1276, with translations of ancient names of places to today's standard names. Also, there is a page on Emmajin's family tree. The author really deserves compliments for her meticulous research on the Mongolian lifestyle and culture. She describes the scenery of the wide stretches of land in Mongolia skillfully using beautiful words which makes me feel as if I were in that place. Included in the back is a glossary of some of the Mongolian and Latin terms which is used by the characters in the novel.
Dori Jones Yang has created word images so vivid that it is almost like watching a movie. She takes you on a brilliant Odyssey through the often-discussed-but-seldom-written-about Mongolian history through the eyes of the courageous royal princess herself. I heartily recommend this book to everyone, especially those who has a keen interest in the history of China and Mongolia or the founding of the Yuan Dynasty. by Aik
Who would win in a fight: Mulan or Emmajin Beki?
"Can you imagine, a mere girl fighting on the battlefield?"
The role of females in combat is a debate as timeless as war itself, and one that remains divisive and unresolved to this century. While present-day arguments for and against allowing women in the military revolve around psychological and biological issues, back in olden times, one needed only cite "tradition" and "familial roles" to silence the detractors.
The teenaged heroine of Dori Jones Yang's new 13th-century historical fiction novel, Daughter of Xanadu, is one such detractor, albeit immutable. Often imagining herself on the battlefield, "the son my father never had," Emmajin Beki, the granddaughter of Mongolian king Khubilai Khan, learned to ride a horse before she could walk and can outshoot all her cousins in archery. She confidently and outspokenly aspires to emulate her female ancestors who assisted Chinggis Khan in conquering Asia ("the blood of all these earlier strong women flowed in my veins").
Unfortunately for this princess, "the days of strong women had ended once luxurious court life had begun." The Mongols, fattened, lazy and resting on their laurels, now prefer to tell stories of battles-past over lavish "orgies of excess" rather than engage in new wars, much to Emmajin's restless discontent. When she makes known her desire to "become a legend" like real-life women warriors Aiyurug Khutulun and Hua Mulan of China, the great Khan placates her by sending her on a secret mission to spy on a family of foreign merchants currently visiting the Mongol court.
The merchants' young son turns out to be one Marco Polo, the now-legendary Venetian journeyer credited for introducing Asian culture to the west. To Emmajin, however, he is just another "colored-eye man," a court curiosity from Christendom whose gallantry and romantic gestures are as ridiculous to the manly Mongolians as his facial hair ("his beard was so thick I could imagine food sticking in it").
Try as she might, however, Emmajin, caught in the peak of puberty, is unable to resist Marco's western charm, and quickly finds herself enamored by his worldly vision ("I had learned to see the world through Marco's eyes") as well as his pelt. "What would the hair on his arm feel like?" she often fantasized about at night. But she was a Mongolian first, and reluctantly sacrifices her blossoming relationship with the foreigner to complete her spy mission ("He was not a friend but a source of information.").
Authoress Dori Jones Yang is a Caucasian American, yet she is no stranger to writing from the perspective of conflicted adolescent Chinese girls, as evinced in her previous, award-winning novel, The Secret Voice of Gina Zhang. In Daughter of Xanadu, she hones in even deeper into the physiological confusion and emotional conflictions that make youth such a joy, turning Emmajin into such a hormonal wreck that this male reviewer often found himself gritting his teeth in frustration at such contradictive revelations as, "if he had pursued me, I would have rebuffed him. By holding himself aloof, he challenged me to win back his esteem."
Daughter of Xanadu is not all teenage angst. As our protagonist matures, so does the content of the story. Emmajin eventually persuades Khubilai Khan to allow her to train for war against the Burmese at the Battle of Vochan (present-day Yunnan province), where the embarrassment of getting her period in front of the all-male troops is a bloody omen for what's to come. Upon seeing her cousin slain, innocent Emmajin is transformed into a "mindless killer." Bloodlust unleashed, the young princess swings her sword indiscriminately ("the hatred pounded in my ears...killing him felt good"), resulting in hundreds of men dead by her hand alone. One can only imagine all the Mulan vs. Emmajin fanfiction that this novel will inspire!
By story's conclusion, Messer Polo, who witnessed and wrote about the Mongols' real-life battle against the Burmese in his book, The Travels of Marco Polo, has elevated "Emmajin the Brave" into the living legend she wanted to be, though she now regrets it. "These men needed a hero, but I no longer needed to be one." She resigns her sword and rank, and departs with Polo back to Europe as the Khan's emissary of peace, leaving the literary door wide open for a sequel.
Dori Jones Yang, who also penned the best-selling Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time, is a skilled historian. In researching Daughter of Xanadu, Yang, fluent in Putonghua, traveled all the way to the ruins of Xanadu in remote Inner Mongolia, which this itinerant backpacker can personally attest is no easy journey. The short chapters and brief sentences, edited with razor precision for a younger audience, along with a helpful glossary for ESL students, make reading Daughter of Xanadu a breeze, though adults will admittedly want to beg this book back afterwards from their tweens.
Tom Carter is the author of CHINA: Portrait of a People by Thomas Carterunder review